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Published: Saturday, 7/30/2011

Ground cover to the rescue

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
BLADE GARDENING COLUMNIST

I must confess: I am definitely obsessed. What do I spend all of my spare change on? My collection of ground cover.

OK, so it doesn’t sound exciting, but when you think of it, ground covers can be a landscape savior. Let’s say you can’t grow grass under that tree. Ground cover to the rescue. You need to fill in under the woody shrubs with something lovely instead of the blanket of weeds or thinning mulch, a ground cover will do the trick. Nothing but dirt between those pretty slate slabs? Maybe it is time for a ground cover to pull the whole design together.

Some can be a bit pushy, like bugleweed, creeping Jennie, and vinca minor. These are just a few of my current obsessions.

Ajuga

Bugleweed, also known as ajuga, comes in a few colors. Mainly they are dark green and dark purple leaves. Some varieties will have a blue flower, others have a white flower. Ajuga pyramidalis will stay in clumps, but if you want it to spread, try Ajuga reptans. You also can find varieties with tricolored leaves in burgundy, red, and pink.

I like to use ajuga to fill in under shrubs or places where I already have an edge. This is an aggressive little bugger, but I try to use that to my advantage. The dark green and purple looks great with any hydrangea.

Invite Jenny over

Creeping Jenny is another staple in the garden, especially if you have some shady spots where nothing will grow. You may also have heard it called moneywort, which is a relative to the primrose. You get a bonus yellow flower in late spring, but the real draw for me is its prolific will to fill in the void. It has penny-sized green leaves and will fill in almost any spot. It has dark green or lime green leaves. Once it gets established, you can mow it to keep it neat and tidy.

I also use creeping Jenny to fill in the spaces on my rock wall. What a great contrast with the lime green color against the stone. It is easy to plant, since I usually just grab a handful from a spot that seems unusually thick and literally toss it into a spot that is bare. Within a few days, it is perking up and setting down roots.

Oh, Myrtle

This has a lot of different names, like Myrtle, creeping Myrtle, periwinkle, or vinca. All of them are correct. It is that pretty vine that will grow like crazy with the small dark green leaves and pretty purple flowers. You can find it in just about any garden. I’m sure if I stopped by your neighborhood, I would find it in almost everyone’s garden. Other varieties have white flowers and you can even find it with a variegated leaf.

It is a hardy evergreen low-growing plant. You hear me whining about the hill in my yard, well this is what I am trying to establish there so my husband and son don’t cut off a toe trying to mow it. It takes a good soil and water and fertilizer to keep its roots strong to become established. And remember, if it gets out of its boundary, watch out —You could have a yard full of vinca.

Don’t forget, when you buy ground cover, it is also a good idea to buy some kind of edging. It is kind of like buying a black spot treatment at the same time as your newest variety of rose. More on my ground cover obsession next week. Send me your favorites.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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